GETTYThe world is on the brink of a 50-year ice age and Britain will bear the brunt
Crippling blizzards, snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures threaten a yearly dose of Arctic misery for the next FIFTY YEARS at least - and possibly decades more.
Climate experts warn a rare pattern of water cooling in the north Atlantic will trigger a chain reaction of events leading to a “fully-blown ice age”.
The say the UK is on alert for a “serious climate situation” with regular winter whiteouts pushing emergency services to the limit.
REUTERSWintry scenes like this one on London's Clapham Common could become commonplace in the next 50 years
Britain faces an 'all but unprecedented' situation thanks to a cocktail of climatic changes all happening at once to affect the weather.
The northern Atlantic has been cooling steadily over the past few months leading to a colossal area of icy water to form off the UK coast.
This is thought to be the result of changes in wind flow and salinity and could lead to lower than average temperatures in Britain all year round.
The phenomenon has already raised fears this winter will be un usually brutal with months of sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow on the way.
Long-term accumulative effects could be that parts of northern Europe, including Britain, will cool dramatically.
PABritain could soon find itself in a permanent winter if the mini ice age comes to pass
Assuming the Atlantic current slow-down theory is correct, and should the abnormally cold water off of Greenland remain consistent, it could continue to partially block the transport of warm water and correspondingly warm air into western Europe for years
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski
The seemingly small drop in Atlantic temperatures also threatens to nudge the Gulf Stream, which brings warm currents to the UK coasts, off course.
The usual flow of air over Europe from the Arctic towards Bermuda and the tropical Azores Islands is also likely to be thrown out of kilter.
Another driver will be a dramatic reduction in solar energy output which has been observed over the past few months.
Long-range forecasters say this will add to the mix with the UK at risk of a “fully-blown ice age” before the end of the century.
AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said icy Atlantic waters could affect the weather for years to come.
He said: “The temperature of surface ocean water can vastly affect the temperature of nearby land areas.
“A ‘blob’ of abnormally cold water in the North Atlantic, located near Greenland, has the potential to put enough drag on the ocean current to impact weather conditions in the years to come.
“Long-term effects of the altering of the Gulf Stream and other Atlantic currents are complex.
“Assuming the Atlantic current slow-down theory is correct, and should the abnormally cold water off of Greenland remain consistent, it could continue to partially block the transport of warm water and correspondingly warm air into western Europe for years to come.
“The climate in the region including in London, Amsterdam, Paris and Lisbon could then cool a few degrees, relative to the warming conditions around the globe.”
NASARecord low temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean could spark dramatic weather in the UK this winter
AccuWeather long-range expert Brett Anderson added: “When there is an anomaly with either the atmosphere or ocean temperature you can bet there will be some effect on the other nearby or far away.”
The warning comes just months after the Met Office warned Britain might be facing another maunder minimum ice age.
A recent report warned the amount of light and warmth released by the sun is nosediving to levels "not seen for centuries".
A so-called 'Maunder Minimum' has been responsible for historic winter whiteouts and led to the River Thames freezing 300 years ago.
The Met Office-led study claimed that although the effect will be offset by recent global warming, Britain faces years of unusually cold winters.
A spokesman said: "A return to low solar activity not seen for centuries could increase the chances of cold winters in Europe and eastern parts of the United States but wouldn't halt global warming.
"Return of 'grand solar minimum' could affect European and eastern US winters.”
NOAAThe strongest El Nino in history is threatening to play havoc with our weather
James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather, said an unusually strong El Nino Pacific Ocean warming will contribute to the chilly mix.
He said the effects are likely to start emerging this year as Britain heads towards a severe, cold winter.
He said: “We are entering what a number of weather models are showing as a strong El Nino event.
“The significance of an El Nino event on weather patterns for the UK are not as clear-cut, but some past indications do give good weighting to the development of colder winters over the British Isles.
“In terms of this winter the more direct and influential factors include the extremely low solar activity that we currently reside within, and the cold water anomaly in the North Atlantic.”
He said after a cycle of strong solar activity an “off the charts” dip in the sun’s energy output will trigger years of potentially cold winters in the UK.
This will disrupt the flow of the warming Gulf Stream which usually hikes winter temperatures and blocks the full thrust of any Arctic flow.
He said: “The Gulf Stream regulates winter temperatures to much warmer values than they should be for the likes of the UK and Ireland in respect to our overall latitude.
“In periods of high solar activity we experience a significant rise in solar energy which heats these vital ocean currents. “An increase in solar activity levels heated ocean currents, which favoured certain atmospheric circulation patterns from around the globe whilst also retaining heat on earth from insulation.
“However, we are now in something completely different, and after such a period of high solar activity in recent decades, we have gone to something completely off the charts in terms of solar output.
“This also alters ocean behaviour to more long term cold cycles, and models can overcook El Nino conditions and their impacts as solar activity is currently low.
“This serious climate situation is also something that is unlikely to correct itself overnight as repeated analysis of past cycles and other contributing factors in relation to the current solar output and size/frequency of sunspots reveal to us quite conclusively that we are heading into something like a Maunder Minimum - a time when the Thames used to freeze over regularly in London - or a fully blown ice age in the coming years and decades.”
Long episodes of low solar activity were seen during the Maunder Minimum between 1645 and 1715 and the 'Dalton Minimum' from 1790 to 1830.
Both periods coincided with colder-than-normal global temperatures earning the title from scientists of "Little Ice Age.”
However some scientists say the outcome may not be as disastrous as others fear with the outcome still uncertain.
Dr Dan Hodson, climate scientist at the University of Reading, said the colder ocean temperatures could force a positive North Atlantic Oscillation leading to milder conditions.
He said: “The current El Nino is building up to be a big one, and it is still a case of seeing what happens before we can know how it will affect things.
“There is evidence to suggest that cooling in the Atlantic can lead to a strong North Atlantic Oscillation and that would imply warmer and wetter winter weather.
“As we get closer to winter we will start to know more.”